A few weeks ago, Michael Jones (aka “Inspiring Philosophy”) published a documentary over at his YouTube channel entitled “Exodus Rediscovered.” The lengthy film was quintessentially Jones: it was well-produced, interesting to watch, and deeply flawed. I had been vaguely aware that the documentary was in the pipeline but paid little attention to the specific details. When it was finally published, I was tagged on Twitter asking my opinion of it. I muted the tweet since I honestly had no desire to get involved. However, a friend of mine on Twitter had watched it and found problems with it. He also alerted me to a review by Egyptologist David Falk that had been posted to Falk’s YouTube channel. You can watch that review here:
Not long after Falk’s mildly scathing (is that a thing?) review, Jones took down his documentary and issued a statement over at his blog which you can read here. In it, he acknowledges the multiple flaws with his film and abandons the dating for an early exodus in favor of a later date. But at the end of his post, Jones writes this:
I also want to be clear, I hold no grudges against early exodus date proponents (nor will I mention their names) who initially convinced me the Exodus best fits with the reign of Amenhotep II. It is very easy for people to hold resentment if they feel like they have been deceived. For example, many ex-Christians go around claiming all apologists are dishonest because, in their view, they feel apologists deceived them. I often encourage people to extend the principle of charity as much as possible and that is what I must do as well. I have no hard feelings for early date proponents who initially convinced me. It is better to believe they were advocating what they thought was true and right, not lying to me or themselves.
While I am all for giving charity, the problem with so much of what passes for Christian apologetics deserves none. And while Jones’ action of taking down his discredited video is viewed by some as the model of Christian humility and the willingness to change one’s views in light of new evidence, for my part it seems like the symptom of a much larger problem, one that is inherent to the apologetic impulse.
If we lacked the biblical account of the exodus, could we come to the conclusion that a relatively large group of former Semitic slaves escaped Egypt, supernaturally thwarting Egyptian might, to arrive in the Levant unmolested based solely on archaeological and inscriptional evidence? I would venture to say that we could not. But it is precisely because we have biblical accounts of an exodus that have been coupled with particular views of divine inspiration, infallibility, and inerrancy that the need to square the Pentateuchal narratives with the historical record arises. Apologists, therefore, are compelled to find in the data the proof they need to declare that the Bible got it right all along. In other words, they begin with their conclusion and try to find evidence to confirm it. This is pop-apologetics in a nutshell: it is defensive by its nature and of very limited value.
Now, before the “but atheists” crowd jumps in, let me acknowledge that my unbelieving brethren do this too. I find this to be especially true of the Jesus Mythicist crowd. But here is the key difference between Christian apologists and atheists: the latter do not claim to be given a supernatural guide in the form of the Holy Spirit to spur them on to truth (cf. John 14:16-17). From where I’m standing, there’s no practical difference between an atheist who denies the existence of the Holy Spirit and a Christian who affirms it. Why would I want to become a Christian if it has no discernible, real world effect? For the fire insurance?
No thank you.